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SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN “SKEPTIC” COLUMN FOR MAY 2017

On Witches and Terrorists: Why Torture Doesn’t Work

As recounted by author and journalist Daniel P. Mannix, during the European witch craze the Duke of Brunswick in Germany invited two Jesuit scholars to oversee the Inquisition’s use of torture to extract information from accused witches. “The Inquisitors are doing their duty. They are arresting only people who have been implicated by the confession of other witches,” the Jesuits re ported. The duke was skeptical. Suspecting that people will say anything to stop the pain, he invited the Jesuits to join him at the local dungeon to witness a woman being stretched on a rack. “Now, woman, you are a confessed witch,” he began. “I suspect these two men of being warlocks. What do you say? Another turn of the rack, executioners.” The Jesuits couldn’t believe what they heard next. “No, no!” the woman groaned. “You are quite right. I have often seen them at the Sabbat. They can turn themselves into goats, wolves and other animals…. Several witches have had children by them. One woman even had eight children whom these men fathered. The children had heads like toads and legs like spiders.” Turning to the flabbergasted Jesuits, the duke inquired, “Shall I put you to the torture until you confess?”

Scientific American (cover)

One of these Jesuits was Friedrich Spee, who responded to this poignant experiment on the psychology of torture by publishing a book in 1631 entitled Cautio Criminalis, which played a role in bringing about the end of the witch mania and demonstrating why torture as a tool to obtain useful information doesn’t work. This is why, in addition to its inhumane elements, it is banned in all Western nations, including the U.S., whose Eighth Amendment of the Constitution prohibits “cruel and unusual punishments.” […]

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Houdini’s Final Incredible Secret
SKEPTICALITY EPISODE 285

In this episode of Skepticality, Derek talks with Bob Loomis, librarian at the Magic Circle, and scholar of the history of stage illusion. His latest work is the book Houdini’s Final Incredible Secret: How Houdini Mystified Sherlock Holmes’ Creator, which is a detailed account of Bob’s obsession with figuring out how one trick was performed.

Houdini's Final Incredible Secret: How Houdini Mystified Sherlock Holmes' Creator

Get the Skepticality App — the Official Podcast App of Skeptic Magazine — so you can enjoy your science fix and engaging interviews on the go! Available for iOS, Android, and Windows.

Spooky Geology
MONSTERTALK EPISODE 128

In this episode, MonsterTalk welcomes back notable skeptic, scientist, researcher and author (and now Podcaster) Sharon Hill. Sharon’s got a new podcast (15 Credibility Street), new science blog (Spooky Geology), and a book coming out later this year. In this discussion we talk about skepticism, science communication and the mysterious phenomena known as The Stone Tape theory of repetitive hauntings.

Jill Greeley (played by Jane Asher) in the The Stone Tape, a 1972 BBC drama by Nigel Kneale.

Jill Greeley (played by Jane Asher) in the The Stone Tape, a 1972 BBC drama by Nigel Kneale. In the movie, Jill can hear sounds and see the apparition of a young woman who apparently had fallen to her death here in the past. Read more about this story.

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SCIENCE SALON #13: JUNE 11 @ 2PM

Dr. Walter Scheidel —The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the 21st Century

Dr. Walter Scheidel

Are mass violence and catastrophes the only forces that can seriously decrease economic inequality? To judge by thousands of years of history, the answer is yes. Tracing the global history of inequality from the Stone Age to today, the Stanford University historian Walter Scheidel shows that inequality never dies peacefully. Inequality declines when carnage and disaster strike and increases when peace and stability return. The Great Leveler is the first book to chart the crucial role of violent shocks in reducing inequality over the full sweep of human history around the world…

Reserve your seat(s) online or by calling 1-626-794-3119. Online reservation closes Sunday June 11, 2017 at 11am PDT.

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Detecting Baloney

Baloney Detection Kit Sandwich (Infographic) by Deanna and Skylar (High Tech High Media Arts, San Diego, CA)

The Baloney Detection Kit Sandwich (Infographic)

For a class project, a pair of 11th grade physics students created the infographic shown below, inspired by Michael Shermer’s Baloney Detection Kit: a 16-page booklet designed to hone your critical thinking skills.

FREE Video Series

Science Based Medicine vs. Alternative Medicine

Science Based Medicine vs. Alternative Medicine

Understanding the difference could save your life! In this superb 10-part video lecture series, Harriet Hall, M.D., contrasts science-based medicine with so-called “complementary and alternative” methods. The lectures each range from 32 to 45 minutes.

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Top 10 Myths of Terrorism

Is Terrorism an Existential Threat?

This free booklet reveals 10 myths that explain why terrorism is not a threat to our way of life or our survival.

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The Top 10 Weirdest Things

The Top Ten Strangest Beliefs

Michael Shermer has compiled a list of the top 10 strangest beliefs that he has encountered in his quarter century as a professional skeptic.

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Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future (paperback cover)

Who believes them? Why? How can you tell if they’re true?

What is a conspiracy theory, why do people believe in them, and why do they tend to proliferate? Why does belief in one conspiracy correlate to belief in others? What are the triggers of belief, and how does group identity factor into it? How can one tell the difference between a true conspiracy and a false one?

FREE PDF Download

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

Do you know someone who has had a mind altering experience? If so, you know how compelling they can be. They are one of the foundations of widespread belief in the paranormal. But as skeptics are well aware, accepting them as reality can be dangerous…

FREE PDF Download

Top 10 Myths About Evolution

Top 10 Myths About Evolution (and how we know it really happened)

If humans came from apes, why aren’t apes evolving into humans? Find out in this pamphlet!

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Learn to be a Psychic in 10 Easy Lessons

Learn to do Psychic “Cold Reading” in 10
Easy Lessons

Psychic readings and fortunetelling are an ancient art — a combination of acting and psychological manipulation.

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